Like if Batman were responding to the Bat Symbol after years of retirement, only he lived in Wakefield and played in a gruff indie rock band that had faded from memory, The Cribs are back. An incomplete analogy, I know, but For All My Sisters sees the band return after three years to see if this indie rock thing is still viable. Rock 'n' roll from snarling ex-kids with jaunty guitars.
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- For All My Sisters by The Cribs
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5/10 Andrew Revis Customer review, 26th March 2015
The Cribs have certainly shown themselves to have far greater longevity than the rest of those British guitar bands of that so-called New Rock Revolution of the 2000s: Bloc Party, The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand, The Futureheads, Maximo Park, Nine Black Alps, The Rakes, The Ordinary Boys, The Cooper Temple Clause, Ikara Colt...and on and on and on. Only Arctic Monkeys have matched them for staying power. But where those first three albums of 2004-2007 were so packed with power-pop hits, the fourth and fifth took a half-step aside, adding balls, brashness and a few darker shades to their previous pure pop formula. But it still worked, mostly anyway, thanks to the presence of the same insistent hooks that got them out of Wakefield in the first place.
Maybe this sixth record is just the sound of a band ageing, the logical next step towards adolescence/obsolescence. They sound calmer and more level-headed than ever before, their throats aren't shredded and the guitars are light and tinny. Bands are supposed to mature as songwriters, aren't they? But so often (pretty much always, in fact) it's their first efforts that present the artist at their most artistic. The common end result is that odd phenomena where a band apparently regresses as they go. In the case of The Cribs' latest album their songwriting is less refined, their playing more skittish and, remarkably, their singing even worse than ever before.
For All My Sisters is an album grasping at past glories, of recycled half-riffs and lo-fi faux-garage, faux-brash punk-pop. So many of these tracks are plodding, half-baked, and a bit pointless (An Ivory Hand, Pacific Time). Hooks do occasionally peak out (Different Angle, Summer Of Chances) but these moments are never adequately developed into satisfying wholes. Too many of these tracks are sketches of potentially decent ideas.
For all the headline-grabbing, it actually matters little who has been in the producers chair on all The Cribs' records: Conn, Collins, Kapranos, Albini, Fridmann, or in this case Ocasek. What matters absolutely and completely is the songs, and, sorry boys, they've eluded you here. The Cribs now more than ever seem to aspire to, and lack, Sonic Youth's focused squall, The Replacements' spirit of recklessness, and Pavement's slacker swagger, but the outcome of this lack of focus and originality is a sound more like a bad Pinkerton pastiche, with plenty of sharp notes pricking the ears but little truly memorable.
And yet everyone's drooling over this album, in exactly the same way that so few people drooled over my favourite Cribs records, so unfairly lumping them in with that landfill indie crowd of Razorlight, Kasabian, The Kooks, The View, The Fratellis and the like. The Cribs are so much better than that. A raucous, Steve Albini-produced punk album is apparently slated for release this year, this being that record's poppy counterpoint. By the law of diminishing returns I'm preparing for further disappointment.
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